Marketing your new practice is one thing, but helping identified prospects to agree to become clients requires different skills, writes Mark Lee.
In an ideal world, you would simply tell people that you are open for business and your ideal prospects would then find you and ask to become your clients.
Life isn’t like that. Even when these people do find out about your practice you need to have a process which brings them onboard as clients. Traditionally known as ‘closing the sale’ this is quite distinct from your marketing and business development activity.
But this is the place to start. If your marketing is attracting the wrong type of prospects you may never be able to close them. Instead you need to reconsider what you are saying and where you are promoting your marketing messages.
If you are seeing the right sort of people but they don’t become clients you need to consider why this is the case - even if it seems to be about fees often this is not the real issue.
A few months ago I interviewed Marcus Cauchi for AccountingWEB. He shared some robust views about what stops accountants selling more effectively, which criticised accountants who discount their fees to close the sale. He also suggested it’s a mistake to answer prospects’ questions without first qualifying what’s prompting each question.
What does ‘closing the sale’ mean?
None of us like to think that we are in ‘sales’, so perish the thought that we might ever come across as a pushy sales person.
In the context of this article ‘closing the sale’ means advancing the sales process to secure absolute confirmation from the prospect that they are appointing you as their new accountant. This isn’t when they first agree to do do so – it’s when they sign your letter of engagement and confirm payment of your fees. Until that point the ‘sale’ has not been completed or ‘closed’.
Before you close the sale
Every time you have a conversation with a prospective client you need to ensure that you are both clear as to what happens next. Will you send some information? Will they visit the FAQs or testimonials page of your website? When will you speak again?
Equally it is during preliminary conversations that you will want to help the prospect to realise why they should...